Part-timers overlooked in primaries

12th July 1996 at 01:00
Having read the article on part-time teachers (TES, June 28) by Fred Redwood, I feel compelled to write in order to put forward another view of the apparent joys of part-time work in schools.

It may well be the case that for some teachers, particularly those working in secondary schools, part-time work can be fulfilling and does not affect their career status or prospects. It would be interesting to do a follow-up article on the situation in primary schools.

My experience as a part-time primary teacher, and that of many friends, has been very different. In the primary sector, being part-time is the kiss of death as far as your career is concerned. You are no longer considered to be a serious candidate for promotion, whatever your range of experience, qualifications or ability. In secondary schools it is not uncommon to find part-time teachers or job-sharers with posts of responsibility. This seems to be very rare in primary schools.

Job-sharing was proclaimed a victory for equal opportunities. It was to be the answer to many women's dilemma of balancing working and family commitments. In my experience, and that of many other colleagues, job-sharers fare no better in terms of their career opportunities. Some schools may be committed to job-sharing in a serious way, providing time for their teachers to plan together and supporting them in their desire to attend courses. However, many schools are not. Most job-sharers I know have to resort to meeting and planning on their non-teaching days. Part-time teachers will often find that staff meetings, parents' evenings and curriculum days are planned for those days when they do not work. The option is then to return to school in their own time in order to be involved in these essential activities or to be excluded and even more marginalised.

The image of the part-time woman teacher popping in for a couple of days to do a bit of work for "pin money" is no longer a fair one. Most part-time teachers have chosen not to work full time because of family commitments. We still need to work because our families need the money. Sadly, many of us have found that despite giving our loyalty and hard work to the profession, we are no longer considered seriously for promotion or even a "proper" full-time teaching job.

The majority of part-time teachers I know work very hard and spend a large proportion of their so-called "free days" planning and preparing for the hours they work. Most of us are professional, dedicated and intelligent people and would like to be treated on an equal footing with our full-time colleagues in terms of opportunities for training and promotion.

The message I have for prospective employers and school managers is this: part-time teaching does not mean part-time commitment. Please take us seriously.

SUE McDONAGH 50 Brincliffe Edge Road

Sheffield

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